How to Remove Household Stains: Pro Tips

Stains happen, regardless of how meticulous you are, especially if you have children and pets. There’s nothing like showing off a brand-new rug only for a beloved pet to make its mark or spilling coffee down your white blouse as you’re heading off to work. From mud, blood, and pet accidents to coffee and red wine spills, follow these helpful tips for removing even the gnarliest stains from your clothes, carpets, and upholstery.

Red Wine Stains 

Red wine stains are not as difficult to remove as you might think – if you act quickly.   

Removing red wine stains on carpets and rugs – As soon as you stain your carpet with red wine, blot as much of it as you can with a paper towel, then cover the entire stain with salt until you can’t see the red wine stain anymore. Let the salt soak into the wet stain and then dry. As the salt dries, it should suck up the stain. Then, just vacuum everything up.

Removing red wine stains on clothing – Mix equal parts of Dawn dishwashing detergent and hydrogen peroxide. Pour the mixture over the wine stain and allow it to soak in. You should see the stain begin to fade almost immediately. After you have allowed the mixture to soak into the stain, launder the clothing normally.

Another method for removing red wine is to cover the stain in white vinegar, which neutralizes purple and red pigments. Immediately after applying the vinegar, rub in liquid detergent, then launder in hot water. The stain should lift.

Ink Stains 

There’s nothing worse than a stubborn ink blotch on a crisp white shirt. Different ink stains require different care, Follow the steps below if you’re trying to remove ballpoint pen or felt-tip pen ink.  

Removing fresh ballpoint ink from fabric from washable fabrics like cotton and denim. As with any stain, the quicker you get to it, the easier it will be to remove. Place a paper towel under the stain and flush it with rubbing alcohol. Use an eyedropper to apply alcohol directly onto the stain or, for a larger spot, pour the alcohol into a small dish, immerse the stained area and soak for 15 minutes. 

The ink should begin to dissolve almost immediately. Continue sponging and blotting the stain until no more ink emerges from the fabric. Rinse under cool water, apply a pre-wash stain remover and wash the garment on the hottest setting with a bleach that’s safe for the fabric — opt for a color-safe formula for colored clothes.  

Removing felt-tip ink – is a bit more time-consuming but is possible to remove. Rinse the stain under cold water to flush out as much ink as possible. Next, fill a basin with hot water and pour in a bleach-free laundry detergent. The amount you’d use to hand wash a blouse should do, plus a couple of splashes of ammonia. Stir the solution and immerse the garment. Give the stain a rub with your fingers, and let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour. 

To help it along, mix up a new solution or add a bit more ammonia. When the stain is gone or lightened as much as possible, rinse the garment, rub in a bit more liquid laundry detergent and wash as usual. As with any stain, air-dry the garment until you are certain the stain is gone. Putting it in a hot dryer will set the stain, making it harder to remove.


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Removing ballpoint ink from the carpet:  You’ll need two cans of inexpensive lacquer hair spray to remove ballpoint ink stains from a natural-fiber carpet. Spray the hairspray onto the ink stain to soften the ink. Using a clean cloth or towel, blot the lacquer, but don’t scrub. Continue blotting the stain until the ink disappears. Allow the area to dry, then hand-brush the area and vacuum. 

Removing permanent maker (sharpies and gel pens) ink from the carpet. Dab the ink stain with rubbing alcohol to moisten it.  Blot, don’t rub. Continue lightly blotting the ink stain from the carpet, and the ink will start to transfer to the towel. Once clean and stain-free, dab the area with a towel moistened with lukewarm water. Repeat the process for stubborn stains. 

Coffee Stains 

Coffee spills seem to happen at the most inconvenient time and can be tough to remove. 

Removing coffee stains on clothing – Sponge the stain with cool water or soak the garment for 30 minutes. Pretreat the stain with a prewash stain remover and launder it with chlorine or oxygen bleach if it’s safe for the fabric. If your coffee contains milk or cream, make sure to use a detergent with enzymes to help break down stains. Most stain-fighting detergents have enzymes, but check the packaging to make sure. 

Removing coffee stains on carpets – Blot up as much coffee as possible. Then, mix 1/2 tsp of liquid dish soap and 1/2 tsp of white vinegar, and 2 cups of warm water. Using a clean, white cloth, sponge the stain with the mixture. Apply a little at a time, frequently blotting with a dry cloth until the stain disappears. Finally, sponge with cold water and blot dry.

Mud Stains 

Wait for the dirt or mud stain to dry completely. If you try to remove the stain when still wet, you’ll work it deeper into the fabric or carpet fibers, making it even harder to get out.  

Removing mud stains on clothing – Once the stain is completely dry, gently scrape off the clumps of dirt on the clothing item’s surface. Rub liquid laundry detergent over the stain and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Rub the stain every 3-5 minutes to help the detergent loosen the remaining debris. Before putting the clothing item in the wash, apply a stain remover to the area, rubbing it in for additional removal power.   

Removing mud on carpets –  immediately remove any solids to prevent them from being tracked deeper into the fibers. Allow the mud to dry, then vacuum to remove as much dried soil as possible. Next, mix two teaspoons of liquid dishwashing detergent and two cups of cool water. Use a white cloth, sponge, or soft bristle brush to work the solution into the mud-stained areas. Blot away the soil with a paper towel. 

Rinse the area with plain water to remove any soapy residue so it doesn’t attract more dirt. If the mud has left discoloration, mix a solution of oxygen bleach and water following package directions. Saturate the stained area and allow the solution to work for at least an hour.

Then blot away after the area has dried completely, and vacuum to lift carpet fibers. The same cleaning solution and steps for the carpet can be used for upholstery, taking care not to over-saturate the fabric. Excess moisture in the cushions can cause mold problems.

Blood Stains  

Like red wine and coffee stains, wet or dry blood can be tough to remove. And like most other stains, blood is easiest to remove when it’s fresh. 

Removing fresh blood from clothing items – Soak the stain in cold water as soon as possible. If the stain is new, place the stained area under cold running water and flush out as much fresh blood as possible. Sponge the area with hydrogen peroxide or rub bar soap into the stain and scrub by hand in cold water. Next, apply laundry pre-treater or rub in an enzyme-containing liquid laundry detergent. Wash the remaining stain in warm water with a fabric-safe bleach until the stain is gone.

Removing dry blood from clothing items – Pre-soak the garment in cold water and laundry detergent. Next, pre-treat or rub the stain with bar soap and launder it with fabric-safe bleach. If this doesn’t work, repeat the pre-soaking step for an extended period. Or, mix one quart of water with 1 tsp laundry detergent and 1 tbsp ammonia and let the garment soak in the solution (it may take several hours, depending on the severity of the stain). Pre-treat and launder the item again.

Removing blood from carpet – If the stain has dried, gently go over it with a soft brush to break up the deposit. Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent with two cups of cold water. Using a clean white cloth, sponge the stain with the detergent solution. Blot until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the stain disappears, then sponge the spot with cold water and blot dry.

If the stain remains, mix one tablespoon of ammonia (never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia as the resulting fumes are hazardous) with 1/2 cup of warm water. Sponge the stain with the solution and blot until the liquid is absorbed. Sponge with cold water and blot dry.

Pet Urine Stains 

No matter how well-trained your dog is and how diligently you keep to your potty-break schedule, sometimes pee happens.

Removing new urine stains on carpet or fabric – Place a thick layer of paper towels over the wet spot and, if possible, under it. Cover that with a thick layer of newspaper. You can stand on the paper for a few minutes to help it absorb the urine more quickly or leave it until it is soaked. Then remove all the paper and rinse the area with cool water. Blot up all the water, either with towels or a wet vac. The soggy towels will probably stink, which is good because it means you’re drawing out as much urine and odor as possible.

Once you have most of the liquid blotted up, the next step is to remove the smell with baking soda. Spread baking soda thinly and evenly across the damp spot, being careful not to overdo it; about 1/4 cup or less is enough for most stains. Let the baking soda sit overnight, and then vacuum thoroughly. 

You may have to go over the area several times to vacuum up all the powder until the area feels clean to the touch. You can also try mixing one cup of distilled white vinegar with one cup of water and two teaspoons of baking soda in a spray bottle. Shake well to mix the ingredients, and then spray on the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then blot the area with towels until clean.

Removing dry dog urine on fabric and carpets – While removing the smell of urine from dried stains is more challenging, there are several effective methods. Start by rinsing the area thoroughly with plain water. Use a wet-dry vacuum cleaner and keep saturating and vacuuming the area until clean.

If you don’t own a wet-dry vacuum, try wetting and blotting the spot repeatedly using warm water and clean towels. If this doesn’t get the smell out, use an enzyme cleaner made specifically for pets to break down and remove odors and stains.  

Removing Household Stains: General Guidelines 

Whatever kind of stain you’re trying to remove, the experts recommend the following:

  • Act quickly – The easiest way to remove stains is to address them as soon as possible. Even the most miraculous stain removers will have a more challenging time removing a stain left to dry before being treated. 
  • Blot, don’t rub – Blot with a paper towel or clean white cloth. The stain could spread into the fabric’s fibers and become more difficult to remove if you rub it. 
  • Use cold water – Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg, or blood.  
  • Don’t let stains dry – Never put stained garments into the dryer. The heat will set the stain. 
  • Check labels or test before treating. Follow instructions on garment labels since certain fabrics may require dry cleaning only. If you’re trying to remove a carpet stain, test a small, inconspicuous area first.
  • Be persistent –  You may have to repeat treatments a few times or even try different ones, but don’t give up.  

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Pro Tips for Removing Household Stains